A few weeks ago, I attended a local dance schools spring recital. I enjoyed seeing the young girls get their moment on stage to show their families and friends all the hard work they’ve put into practices finally pay off. The whole show was bittersweet because there was a missing dancer among the tutus and tap shoes. Her absence wasn’t due to being ill or on vacation, it was due to a senseless act committed by someone she once loved. Emilee Hurst would have been on stage, at that recital, showcasing her solo dance routine and participating in a few group routines as well, but sadly, she was killed in a suspected case of domestic violence by an ex-boyfriend in April.
Domestic violence isn’t as rare as some believe. According to SafeHorizon.org “1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime”. To break it down for you, that means, if you have three friends one of you will be a victim of domestic violence in your lifetime. Scary huh? What is even more disturbing than that is the mind-boggling fact that “more than four million women experience physical assault and rape by their partners.” (emphasis added)
Now, I bring those statistics to you because, while sitting enjoying that same dance recital, I realized that there’s an unfortunate chance that of all those girls dancing their hearts out on stage for their family and friends, some of them either have been or will be raped. They may be attacked by a random person, or it may be done by a close friend or family member, but rape is rape. A quick Google search on rape statistics led me to RAINN.org, and a brief reading over their site was chilling; “1 out of 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime”.
Rape can happen to anyone, by anyone; not just women being attacked by a man, or men. One case made recent news because of the powerful letter the woman victim (or survivor, in my mind) wrote to her attacker and read aloud during their trial. Her letter is chilling to read, but it got a lot of people talking about rape, finally opening up about being attacked, and how rapists are treated versus their victims by the authorities and culture at large.
As a survivor of rape, I know what it feels like to be afraid to walk alone anywhere, even in broad daylight. How worthless and filthy you feel even after the hottest of hot showers. Being afraid to open up to new people because you’re afraid they’ll look and treat you differently after they know. It took a few months time for me to be able to share this chapter of my story without having dreams about that horrid night. Some survivors aren’t able to talk about what happened to them for years. We all heal in different ways, and from something that’s so violent and invasive, some may not find healing this side of Heaven.
All this to say that if you’ve been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, silence isn’t the answer. Speak out, get help. Write your feelings down in a journal, blog about it. Find a counselor to talk to so you can be a survivor of this terrible act, not a victim of it.
I feel that if more victims speak about what they experienced the stigma of rape culture and blaming the victim will begin to diminish and those who perpetrate these cruel and damaging crimes will be held accountable for their actions.
In memory of Emilee Hurst, there will be a community project to help families in need in the San Antonio area happening July 16th at Judson High School. Volunteers and funds are both welcomed and needed. More details are here.